The name Andrew Farriss needs no introduction and the band INXS needs no introduction either achieving what many would dream about. Now, his career has taken a different turn finding himself in the country music scene having spent the past two-and-a-half decades living on the land, on a functioning cattle and grain farm in North-West New South Wales. There is definitely something about the storytelling style in this musical genre that suits his sensibilities and that much is evident in the way his debut release, Come Midnight and more recent single Good Momma Bad which has resonated with audiences. Hi Fi Way speaks to Andrew about his solo album due for release soon.
In your own mind, did it take you a long time to work out what sort of solo artist you actually wanted to be in terms of the direction that you wanted to take your music, stepping out of the limelight of INXS to pursue something different?
Definitely, I think, for me, interestingly enough, I didn’t start off wanting to make a solo album. I have always been a songwriter and that’s the main thing I’m known for. I knew when I took this journey on, that the first place I need to start with is writing songs. Then as it went along, both here in Australia, I wanted to write a by myself as well on this album, and I also began to co-write with some people over in Nashville.
As it went along, I began to realise the more and more I started working with people, for me to consider even putting out recordings in a country music genre, even though I have some background in it, I started asking myself the question, “Why am I doing this? And what can I possibly add to such an incredible history and musical genre as country music?” As it went along, purely by coincidence, Marlina, my wife and I, started riding horses down the Mexican border in the United States.
There’s an area down there called the Shirakawa Mountains. A very historical area where it separates obviously Mexico from New Mexico being in the US and Arizona. We met a wrangler by the name of Craig Lawson, and a cowboy, an older cowboy guy, and his wife, Tam. We took a shine to each other, and the four of us started riding around in the national monument areas in the United States, the cowboy towns out the back of places like the other side of Douglas or Bisping, Tombstone in that general area. I began to get an education on the old West in the United States and started riding the stagecoach routes. I know where Geronimo surrendered. We rode out our horses up to stronghold, and I was able to see how he could outwit the US cavalry as they came across the dusty plains to try and catch him, but he was clever, and he could get away from them.
Then I began to understand the culture much more clearly. It’s not a Hollywood thing. It was real and where Marlina and I live, we live in the North West of New South Wales on a cattle and grains property I’ve owned for twenty-eight years. I began to draw parallels between living in the bush with bush rangers, and the police chasing them around, all of our old bush ranger people, the lifestyle of the Australian bush. There’s a lot of similarities between the two cultures where we have our indigenous cultures, and then the meeting of the European cultures with these people. All of it, all this mishmash of what I’m talking about was part of our cultures in the US and Australia. I began to understand, for myself as a songwriter, to stop looking at it more from a pop point of view, like pop country, and look at it more, I could tell some stories here as a songwriter. Looking at it more from that point of view, and have some fun with it at the same time, don’t take it all too seriously and try to look at it more like that. I got more excited about the idea of doing a country album, because I thought I could then value add to such an amazing genre as the country music genre, and the country music community.
Do you think that experience helped separate you as that guy from INXS?
Well, I think it’s been helping that but then again, I’m proud of my association with INXS. I understand what you’re saying. Ironically, I’m very proud of my association with INXS as a main songwriter, because that opened doors for me to many incredibly talented songwriters that I’ve worked with since, and still working with in the United States, here in Australia and with some Grammy Award winners, who are really, really incredibly talented at what they do. Older people and younger people.
So I think my runs on the board with what we achieved in INXS has actually been a very important thing. I don’t hide that. I think it’s great. I think what I will take on board from what you just said though is that the transition for me from that background, going into what I’m doing now, I really appreciate the open armed way that the country music community, especially in Australia, and overseas, have embraced me. I feel really fortunate because it doesn’t always go that way for people.
Did you find that it took quite a few songs to actually find what Andrew Farriss is about as a country music artist?
Yeah, that’s a very astute question. No one’s actually put it quite like that. You’re right. I had to start recording, I probably have ended up recording I don’t know how many songs now, but maybe forty-five different songs. The twelve songs that make up this album, I sat back and I listened to all my recordings and there was beginning to be a common thread of the ones that I really liked. They all seemed to relate too what I was saying, the bush culture in Australia, and the cowboy culture in the US. vMore like a country and Western album I called my album, because I didn’t really want to so much try to chase a modern radio train in that sense. I wasn’t really that interested in doing that. If that’s what it becomes, great. But that wasn’t the only reason that I made my album. I made my album because I wanted to do some storytelling, and I wanted to have some fun with it. I wanted to use instruments that I wasn’t normally that familiar with. I wanted to record with them, explore them, and be open minded. I wanted to, when I work, and I have been working in the country music genre is just to shut up and listen to other musicians. When they’re suggesting things, and trying things, I’ll just be quiet and listen to what they’re doing, and get an education as opposed to telling everybody what I think they should be doing.
Do you think that fun will also continue once you take the music, take the album out on the road and tour around Australia?
Yeah, that’s my plan definitely. My plan with this is to go steady as she goes, and to really enjoy the shows for whatever they are. I’ve done a couple of smaller shows already in the US, played a couple times at the Bluebird Café in Nashville, I played a charity benefit concert in Dayton, Ohio for cancer, because my wife, Marlina, she’s stage metastatic breast cancer, she’s stable at the moment, whereas, a lot of her friends sadly have passed away. That was a show that meant a lot to me. From an entertainment point of view, entertaining people, I really want to make sure that when I head out on the road and perhaps do more of a tour type thing, I really want to make it enjoyable for both the audience and myself, and the band.
Did you find it was a little bit of an adjustment getting used to the idea it is just you and you’re responsible for everything?
Yeah, I know what you mean. I think the whole thing is that Michael is such an awesome performer and singer. He and I used to joke about it a bit where he looked at me towards the end of his life, and he said one day we were just sitting there as friends, and he said, “Oh, you’re an interesting guy, because you don’t compete with me. You’re not looking to compete with me.” I said, “Man, I couldn’t compete with you. You got to be kidding me. You are just one of the best in the world at what you do. But I’ll get on with doing the things that I’m really good at.” You know what I mean? I got stuff I’m good at, and I’ll go do that. I think I’m very lucky that I have those memories of Michael, because they’re important to me as I get older. We weren’t competitive in that sense. I wasn’t pushing down the front to be doing whatever I’m doing. We were quite, what’s the word? Very well complemented in that area where we got each other. I could see him when he was in full flight, being the guy he was. I was very proud that we had such an incredibly talented person performing with the group as are all the guys, my brothers, Tim, John, Kirk, and Gary. All of us made a really interesting team of people.
All I’ll say about that is that you can achieve pretty much whatever you want to achieve in your life so long as you don’t care who gets the credit for it. You can do really big things if you don’t mind, for me, I just felt, in this music genre I’m wondering around in, I was quite nervous about it at first. Why am I doing this? I often ask myself, why am I doing this? Then I realise, because I still love writing songs, I still love performing music. I get to work with some credibly talented people again. I feel, who gets to do that? Very few people get to do that. I feel very, very fortunate to be honest with you.
Are we looking maybe an album release at some stage this year?
Yeah, that’s right. I put one single out called Come Midnight. Luckily it was really well received by a lot of people, including the radio. Then put another out called Good Momma Bad. The album will come out at some stage but I can’t talk anymore about what’ll happen next just yet.
Do you still think about an album release in the traditional sense? Vinyl and CD?
I really have put a huge amount of effort into the vinyl. I’m really hoping when people will understand what the vinyl record is I’ve made, even the vinyl itself, I can’t say too much more because I want it to be a surprise, I think when you see the vinyl itself physically, you’ll go, “What is this?” Because I put a lot of thought into it. I’m a vinyl fan as well. It’ll also come out on CD. But there’s something really, Okay, the digital era that we’re in, and downloads, and all the rest of it has a wonderful fluid thing to it in that sense. There’s nothing like old school physically being able to hold something in your hand. I think as an art platform for artwork and photography, and information, there’s nothing better than vinyl. There isn’t anything better.
Is there anything else bubbling away maybe INXS related?
I think all of us INXS guys are really overwhelmed with having had the most successful record of the past decade with The Very Best of INXS. That would mean that a lot of Australians and other people around the world must have had that album. That’s just a huge accolade in itself, and overwhelming. Then on the top of that, with the Live Baby Live film that the band has championed, and all the other things that have been going on, it’s been pretty full on in a great way. Again, I just want to say thanks to the fans of the band, and of my own song writing, and whatever it is I’m doing now, my country and Western album project. I think I’m just really pleased for all the other guys in my band, that they should be as proud as I am of all of our achievements.
Interview By Rob Lyon